Rafting the Main Salmon River (August 1987)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.


For most of the 1980s, my main outdoor pursuits had been climbing and mountaineering with a group of like-minded friends. In August of ’87, a bunch of us decided to take a break from trying to defy gravity and give river rafting a try. It would be my first (but by no means last) guided river trip. After resolving mutual scheduling conflicts, all of us got on a World Wide River Expeditions trip down the Main Salmon River in Idaho.

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Rafting the Main Salmon River 16/21-Aug-2017

Main Salmon River Idaho

After we finished our second raft trip through the Grand Canyon in 2014 (post) and a float through Hell’s Canyon in 2016 (post), we looked around for another long river to raft in the U.S.  Others had spoken well of the Salmon River in Idaho, so we signed-on to an O.A.R.S. guided trip on the Middle Fork (post), followed immediately by one on the Main Salmon River (a “combo” trip).  The Salmon is one of the largest rivers in the continental United States without a single dam on its mainstem. While both the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon run through the 2.5 million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho, the Main continues west to skirt the south side of the Gospel Hump Wilderness. Both have been designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches, and U.S. Forest Service stations are evidence of man’s intrusion in this area.

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Rafting the Middle Fork Salmon River 11/16-Aug-2017

Middle Fork Salmon River Idaho

Rafting: All the fun of wilderness backpacking without having to carry anything.  It also allows us to visit remote areas that would be a considerable challenge to reach, much less traverse, on foot.  We were hooked the moment we tried it!  So after we finished our second raft trip through the Grand Canyon in 2014 (post) and a float through Hell’s Canyon in 2016 (post), we looked around for another long river to raft in the U.S.  Our O.A.R.S. guides on the Colorado had spoken well of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, so we signed-on to an O.A.R.S. guided trip on the Middle Fork, followed immediately by one (post) on the Main Salmon River (a “combo” trip).  The Middle Fork runs south to north for 104 miles through the 2.5 million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho; the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 United States.  The entire Middle Fork is designated as a Wild and Scenic River and is one of the last free-flowing tributaries of the Salmon River system. Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches, and U.S. Forest Service stations are evidence of man’s intrusion in this area.

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Rafting the Snake River through Hells Canyon 6/10-Sep-2016

Hells Canyon Snake River Rafting

Our quest to visit all of Oregon’s federally designated wilderness areas eventually brought us to the Hells Canyon Wilderness, which encompasses a total of 217,497 acres: approximately 83,811 acres on the Idaho side of the Snake River and approximately 133,686 acres on the Oregon side. Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America: approximately 8,000 feet deep measured from He Devil Peak (in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains) to the Snake River (in comparison, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is “only” 6,000 feet deep).  This wilderness is a subset of the much larger (652,488 acre) Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles the border of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho and is split into two distinct halves by the Wild & Scenic Snake River.  Recreational activities in Hells Canyon include fishing, jet boat tours, hunting, hiking, camping and whitewater sports (like rafting!). Much of these activities rely on the Snake River, whose pre-dam erosive capabilities essentially created Hells Canyon. The river is home to numerous fish species, an abundance of class II-IV rapids (some of largest in the Pacific Northwest), diverse wildlife, and miles of trail systems.

Hells Canyon Snake River Rafting
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